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The next solar trade war

Apr 24, 2024
illustration of a solar panel surrounded by circles overlaid with legal text and columns

Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

Major domestic solar manufacturers are pushing for a fresh investigation into trade practices in Southeast Asia.

Why it matters: It's the latest front in a war between manufacturers and renewables project developers that's frequently spilling onto the Hill and the 2024 campaign.

  • The last Commerce Department probe upended the solar industry and highlighted China's dominance of the industry's supply chains.

Driving the news: The American Alliance for Solar Manufacturing Trade Committee on Wednesday filed new antidumping and countervailing duty petitions with the Commerce Department and U.S. International Trade Commission.

  • It's asking for an investigation into unfair subsidies and dumping in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.
  • The coalition includes big U.S. domestic players Qcells and First Solar.

Flashback: The Commerce Department already found last year that Chinese companies were sending the manufacturing process through these four countries to circumvent tariffs.

  • But the Biden administration preempted that investigation with a two-year pause, which is now set to expire in June.
  • It was the subject of a massive CRA fight on the Hill, with many Democrats arguing that the pause would give the U.S. time to build up domestic supply chains.

Zoom in: The manufacturers think that many of the imports from the region won't be covered by that circumvention case.

  • "That underscores how important these cases are to address the unfair trade practices of these foreign countries, not just the circumvention of Chinese companies," said Tim Brightbill, lead counsel for the petitioners.
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